Being raised on Kool-Aid and Hostess snack pies, I developed quite a sweet tooth over the years that I started seriously trying to curb (with varying degrees of success) around 1995.  I guess I instinctively knew on some level, at least, that Swedish fish and gummy peaches just couldn’t be good for me, but I didn’t understand fully why until about 5 or 6 years ago.  As I’ve aged, I have seen the toll it has taken on my body and my teeth and I feel blessed to have come to an understanding of its damaging effects sooner rather than later (see yesterday’s post for a great New York Times’ article on sugar).  I come from a long line of sugar-addicts so within the context of clean-eating, cutting the sweets has by far been my biggest challenge.  One of my favorite things in the world?  Chocolate. Chocolate on anything.  I can find a way to justify chocolate for every meal of the day.  And I don’t mean cacao; I mean the CHOCOLATE. Granted, over the years I’ve transitioned to dark, organic chocolate at least, but it’s still just a cover for sugar.  For years, a satisfying recipe for chocolate brownies has eluded me…I’ve tried gluten-free recipes, raw recipes, recipes calling for copious amounts of agave…you name it…and I never felt good about any of them and wasted pounds & cups of expensive ingredients to no avail.  Until last night.

I’m hesitant to even give you this blog because it SOOOO puts mine to shame in the recipe department.  Not just the recipe department, but the aesthetics department, as well.  The photography of the ingredients and final products are absolutely gorgeous.  I’m guessing the creator is not a homeschooling mama of three!!!  And if she is, I don’t want to know. The author, Sarah Britton, is an holistic nutritionist and vegetarian chef. Oh, I can only dream…Her blog is My New Roots and the site is

http://www.mynewroots.blogspot.com

Check it out and then take pity on me and come back to my site and pretend you’ve never seen hers.  No; seriously, her blog is beautiful and the information she’s sharing absolutely hits the mark; the epitome of tasteful taste…if that makes sense.  I hope you love it as much as I do.

Anyway, back to the brownies.  So I had my own recipe that I created based on some ‘decent’ store-bought varieties of ‘healthy’ brownies and decided to do an internet search to see if I was close to the prize before wasting any more ingredients.  My New Roots popped up with a recipe for raw brownies that promised to be out of this world.  ‘Yeah, right’ I thought.  Then I took a closer look at the 5 ingredients and they were what I had but with no agave nectar.  Fantastic.  And she uses walnuts where I had planned to use cashews.  Having all ingredients on hand, I went to town.  These things go start to finish in maybe 10 minutes if you have a food processor.  I can’t offer enough superlatives to describe these brownies.  Now, I admit that my taste buds have evolved to the point where stuff I used to LOVE (e.g. double-stuff OREOs, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Raisinettes) now sickens me.  Even the thought of eating them now makes me a little nauseous, but I still love ‘better’ sweets like organic gelato, for example.  I only need a few bites to satisfy the urge now, but still, those choices offer no nutritional benefit and usually give me hives.  This gives you the rationale for my quest.

I refrigerated them overnight and went to bed planning my brownie breakfast.  I knew the real test would be my oldest son.  As our family’s eating habits have evolved over the years, Samuel’s tastebuds are what I would consider to be the most ‘adulterated’ of my three children.  He was breastfed the shortest time, and, although just about everything he has eaten for 6 years has been organic, he still has a place in his heart for white flour & sugar!  The results of this morning’s taste test: ‘Mommy, these taste like a banana split!’.  Now, I’m not aware that he has ever had an actual banana split, but somehow, he has developed a romanticized affection for the dessert.  Kind of like my middle son who has never had cotton candy, but thinks it is its own food group.  And, as if getting his thumbs up wasn’t enough, my dad, who taught me the beauty of neapolitan ice cream in a cardboard container, gave the stamp of approval.  I didn’t tell him what ingredients they consisted of until after the tasting because he’s a hard sell.

Now that we’ve established how delicious these are, let’s spend just a little bit of time on the nutritional boost the 5 ingredients will give you.  By the way, I agree with Sarah: use the best ingredients you can find and/or afford.  Let the specific richness of each ingredient shine through in the final product.  First, walnuts contain some unique antioxidants and offer anti-inflammatory benefits.  They also contain a specific kind of Vitamin E that has shown to be cardio-protective.  Similarly, almonds contain antioxidants and cardio-protective properties, in addition to high levels of magnesium which helps to relax veins & arteries, resulting in improved flow of oxygen throughout the body (spoken like a true former Pfizer cardiovascular Rx drug-pusher, but that’s another story entirely…probably a whole book, actually).  Raw cacao, rich in antioxidants, is also high in magnesium, which helps with blood circulation.  And what about dates? Not only are they a great source of fiber, but they also contain high levels of antioxidants known as tannins, which provide anti-inflammatory properties.  And these benefits just scratch the surface.  If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out http://www.whfoods.com as they provide a wealth of information regarding what nutrients and benefits specific foods offer.

So, without further delay:

The World’s Best Raw Brownie (I tweaked this just a bit but it’s still 99.9% Sarah’s recipe; you may want to send her a thank you note after you taste them)

2 cups raw, whole walnuts

1 cup raw cacao (I use Navitas brand organic raw cacao nibs; most health food stores will have some version; I order mine from amazon)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 1/2 cups organic Medjool dates, pitted

1 cup raw, unsalted almonds, roughly or finely chopped, depending on your (or your 6-year-old’s!) preference

1. Chop or process your almonds in a food processor to suit your taste.  I did a mixture of finely ground with some larger pieces.  Set aside.

2. Process the walnuts in your food processor until the nuts are finely ground.

3. Add the cacao and the salt; pulse to combine.

4. Add the dates, one or two at a time, through the feed tube while it is running.  Sarah says it will look like cake batter crumbs & that’s exactly what you get.

5. In a large bowl, combine your walnut/cacao mixture with the almonds.  Press into a square brownie pan (Sarah recommends you line the pan; I did not and simply used a large spatula to cut and remove the brownies form the pan).

6.  Refrigerate; they are easy to cut when cold and, I think, taste better chilled.  Sarah pictures them with a little dusting of cacao powder, which makes them look very pretty).

On behalf of Sarah, enjoy!